At a Rotary Club of Madison luncheon at the Alliant Energy Center on Wednesday, Mayor Paul Soglin shared his current prediction for the upcoming City Council decision on the Judge Doyle Square development agreement: Seven alders support the project, eight are firmly opposed, one will abstain and four are on the fence.
“My guess is that it is going to be very, very challenging to get three of those four to support this project,” Soglin said.
The major project would site biotech company Exact Sciences Corp.’s headquarters along with parking, a bicycle center, a hotel and commercial space on the two downtown blocks housing the Madison Municipal Building and the Government East parking ramp. It would total $200.7 million, with about a third of that coming from public funding.
The vote on the final development agreement with JDS Development and Exact Sciences has been gradually pushed back almost a month from its originally scheduled date of Sept. 1 and is now scheduled for a special City Council meeting on Sept. 29.
The first delay stemmed from remaining elements to be worked out in the agreement, pushing the vote back two weeks. Then, due to a packed agenda, the council planned to move the vote to a special meeting on Sept. 23 — a date four alders couldn’t make. Tuesday evening, Council President Denise DeMarb wrote she was able to find an alternative date, Sept. 29 at 6:30 p.m.
She wrote in the email to council members that the latest absence information shows all council members would be able to make it, which she “sincerely" hopes is accurate.
Still, with all 20 council members attending, Soglin predicted a very close vote.
“We’ve had some discussions about why there seems to be the reticence. We know it’s got a big price tag, we know it’s the largest proposed (tax increment financing) in the history of the city, we know it’s going to significantly, for several years, disrupt parking downtown,” Soglin said. “We also believe that we’ve done our best to minimize the risk, we’re doing our best to guarantee equity, accessibility and a labor peace agreement, and, in my opinion, the reward for success is very significant.”
Addressing the packed crowd at the Rotary luncheon, Soglin said he wouldn’t name the four council members who are on the fence, but he urged everyone, if they support the project, to convey it to members of the City Council.
“This very exciting project is in the tradition of Madison,” Soglin said, pointing to the State Street Mall, the state Capitol Concourse, the Civic Center, the Overture Center and the Monona Terrace.
“All of these were large decisions thoughtfully analyzed. They all had risk," Soglin said. "They all had risk, but we did our best to minimize the risk and we did our best to maximize the benefits beyond the envelope of the particular project.”